John Fitzpatrick, Irish-born American trade union leader, is born in Athlone, County Westmeath, on April 21, 1871. He is best remembered as the longtime head of the powerful Chicago Federation of Labor, from 1906 until his death in 1946.
Fitzpatrick attends grammar school in Ireland before coming to the United States in 1882, at the age of eleven, settling in Chicago. Following completion of his formal education, he goes to work as a horseshoer, becoming involved in the International Journeyman Horseshoers’ Union (IJHU), with which he remains affiliated for the next three decades.
Fitzpatrick serves variously as the President, Treasurer, and business agent for the Chicago local of the IJHU, being selected as a delegate to conventions of the union as well as its representative to the American Federation of Labor (AFL). This connection is instrumental in his appointment as the organizer of the Chicago Federation of Labor, city affiliate of the AFL, in 1902. Additionally, he is elected President of that organization in 1906 and remains in the capacity of President and Organizer throughout the ensuing half century.
Fitzpatrick is widely regarded as a progressive voice in the trade union movement, active in political fights beyond the ordinary hours-and-wages concerns which have traditionally dominated the union movement. He is active in the defense campaign on behalf of accused bomber Thomas Mooney, and is active in helping to organize packing house workers and steel workers in 1919.
During these campaigns, Fitzpatrick comes into close contact with radical trade union organizer William Z. Foster, founder of the Trade Union Educational League and outspoken advocate of the amalgamation of the hodge-podge of existing craft unions into unified, and thus more effective, industrial unions.
Fitzpatrick is also an advocate of independent labor politics and is one of the organizers of the Illinois Labor Party as well as its local affiliate, the Cook County Labor party. In November 1919, he runs for mayor of Chicago on the ticket of the Cook County Labor Party and receives a substantial vote of 60,000 of the 580,000 ballots cast. Bolstered by the degree of support which the new organization receives from voters, Fitzpatrick calls a national convention of local Labor Party movements, which is held in Chicago on November 22, 1919.
Fitzpatrick remains as President of the Chicago Federation of Labor until his death in 1946, with the exception of a single year, 1908, when Charles M. Dold serves as head of the organization.